ARTS AGAINST AGGRESSION PRESS RELEASE 12 JANUARY 2015
January will see the return to venerable New York stages of two of the more prominent supporters of the bloody regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin—Valery Gergiev and Anna Netrebko. Because these artists use their artistic standing to support and promote war and aggression, we call on patrons and the media to ask probing questions of the institutions that host these artists.
Valery Gergiev is a vocal Putin apologist and, not coincidentally, the head of the famous St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater and its Kirov orchestra, and on January 14th he will conduct the opening performance of Mariinsky’s two week residency at BAM. These are rather high honors for a conductor who made The Telegraph’s list of five worst classical moments of 2014 twice, but then Kremlin has a storied tradition of handsomely rewarding its most loyal artists.
Anna Netrebko is an opera diva who recently staged a joined press conference in St. Petersburg with Oleg Tsarev, a wanted separatist leader of the Russia-financed and supplied entity in the East of Ukraine. Mr. Tsarev is personally sanctioned by both EU and the US, and at the press conference, Ms. Netrebko handed him a check for one million rubles and posed for photographs with the flag of the so-called Novorossiya—the Russia-invented entity controlled by troops supplied and financed by Russia. Ms. Netrebko’s recent actions are but a logical extension of her long-term position—she has been Mr. Putin’s authorized representative for years and actively supported his campaign for the third term, the campaign that generated a strong wave of opposition in Russia because it was widely viewed to violate Russia’s own constitution.
On January 26th, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Mr. Gergiev, Ms. Netrebko will once again perform at the Metropolitan Opera.
On January 26th, Ms. Netrebko will play Iolanta, the blind princess. This is ironic since Ms. Netrebko has tried to claim that before the press conference she herself was unaware of Mr. Tsarev’s status. This claim of willful ignorance is not entirely surprising, as Mr. Gergiev, Ms. Netrebko and other representatives of Russia’s cultural elite who vocally support Mr. Putin’s regime are more than used to pretending to see no evil in the deeds of the regime. BAM, the Met Opera and all the other institutions that continue to invite these artists onto their stages, thus pretend to hear no evil. But this will only work if the rest of us allow it by speaking no evil.
Arts Against Aggression together with New York-based activists are planning protests of both Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko performances. We call upon the institutions to review their policies and to consider appropriateness of allowing vocal supporters of aggression to perform on their stages. And we call upon the many fans, patrons, institutional supporters and journalists to demand answers from these institutions.
Mr. Putin counts on his supporters to continue to see no evil in his actions and on the civilized world to continue to hear no evil and speak no evil. We can and must do better than that.
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